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the Complete Review
the complete review - non-fiction



Morning Yet on Creation Day

by
Chinua Achebe


general information | our review | links | about the author



Title: Morning Yet on Creation Day
Author: Chinua Achebe
Genre: Essays
Written: (1975)
Length: 175 pages
Availability: Morning Yet on Creation Day is out of print
  • Essays written between 1961 and 1974

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Our Assessment:

B : decent collection, particularly of historic interest

See our review for fuller assessment.




The complete review's Review:

       Morning Yet on Creation Day collects fifteen of Chinua Achebe's essays. The first part of the book focusses on the literary, the second a bit more generally on Africa.
       Several issues stand at the fore: concerns about 'African literature' (is there such a thing ? should there be such a thing ?), the question of what language to write in, the role of the writer in African society. Written between 1961 and 1974, the essays offer an interesting historical perspective too. Achebe was among the first African authors to achieve true success as an author, both abroad and domestically, and literature seemed very much in the ascendant in the Africa of that time. Many of what are still the best-known and most acclaimed African novels were published during the period when Achebe wrote these essays; indeed, many of these books were published in Heinemann's African Writers Series under his stewardship (1962-1972).
       Achebe saw great promise at the time -- though he also focussed on areas of difficulty, such as the lack of indigenous publishers. He had grand ambitions:

What we need is an organic interaction of all three elements -- writer, publisher, and reader -- in a continuing state of creative energy in which all three respond to the possibilities and risks of change.
       Achebe saw literature having an ever-more prominent role in the society of that time:
Present-day schoolchildren are much more aware of literature than was generally the case in my own school days. And I mean literature as a living phenomenon.
       He is particularly pleased by the situation at that time compared to his own, largely bookless childhood, writing in 1972:
       Two factors give them an advantage over my own generation. There are more books around and more libraries; and there are books with a familiar ring and background.
       The availability of books is of crucial importance in creating both committed readers and future writers.
       Unfortunately, the situation has, in many places, changed for the worse again; Charles Larson's The Ordeal of the African Writer (see our review) offers a good overview of present-day conditions.

       (Sousa Jamba's 7 February 2003 review of Larson's book in the Times Literary Supplement offers another sad picture: Jamba describes the local libraries in the Lusaka (Zambia) of his teenage years (in the 1980s) as "veritable shrines in which I got to know other worlds -- including, by reading Nigerian, Kenyan, and Senegalese writers, the African continent itself", but returning to Lusaka two years ago was saddened to find:
the Lusaka Public Library not only lacked books but was falling apart. The British Council Library is still there, but it has few books; while the dailies and magazines are completely absent. The US Cultural Center no longer exists, the Americans having won the Cold War. A curious person growing up in the Zambian capital now will certainly not have access to the same works that I once did.
       A far remove from the promise Achebe still saw !)


       Literature was important when Achebe was writing, and he offers firmly expressed and strong opinions, whether about foreign critics of African works (in the essay 'Colonial Criticism' -- where one of those attacked is Charles Larson) or the use (and difficulties of using) native languages (verus the colonialist's tongues). He makes a simple and sensible "plea for the African novel": "Don't fence me in." There's also some criticism of some African writing -- notably in Achebe's infamous discussion of Ayi Kwei Armah's The Beautyful are not yet Born:
It is a well-written book. Armah's command of language and imagery is of a very high order indeed. but it is a sick book. Sick, not with the sickness of Ghana, but with the sickness of the human condition.
       Interesting pieces also consider the Onitsha market literature, and include his "jottings of a tourist" in Tanganyika, as well as a consideration of 'The African Writer and the Biafran Cause'.

       Achebe's passion, and his true belief in the power of literature, always shine through in these pieces. Now, more than a quarter of a century after publication of this collection, it's sad to see there has not been a continuing progression since those times, and that instead literature seems to have become marginalized in Africa again. Achebe makes a good case for the benefits that might have been achieved if literature mattered; unfortunately, that does not seem to have come to pass.
       A worthwhile, if occasionally dated collection.

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Links:

Chinua Achebe: Other books by Chinua Achebe under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Nigerian author Chinua Achebe (Albert Chinualumogu Achebe) was born 16 November 1930. He has written a number of highly regarded novels, notably Things Fall Apart. He currently teaches at Brown.

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